An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z

78_11104_Ma Rainey_Dream Blues_John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records_20001_Southern Folklife Collection[if you like zooming in on record labels you should click on this photo]

Dream Blues,” 78 rpm disc, 1924
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with The Pruitt Twins, Paramount Records

As Paramount’s best-selling artist of the early 1920s, vaudeville superstar and “The Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was honored with her own “portrait label” disc, the first of its kind, marketed and sold as a special souvenir for her fans. Rainey is accompanied on these March 1924 recordings by the remarkable Pruitt Twins, Miles and Milas of Kansas City, on banjo and guitar. The disc above is call number 78-11104 from the John Edwards Memorial Collection (20001).

This item is one of many highlights pulled from across the collections in Wilson library currently featured in the exhibition An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z, which can be seen in Wilson Special Collections Library until April 19, 2015.

Follow the Wilson Library tumblr for more highlights from the exhibit.

And remember to mark your calendars for our very special event with music biographer Barry Mazor and musician Dom Flemons coming up next week.

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music
Friday, Feb. 6, 2015
Wilson Special Collections Library
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
5:30 p.m. Reception (program will begin at 6 p.m.)
6 p.m. Book Talk by Barry Mazor
7 p.m. Concert by Dom Flemons
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203

Music scout, record producer, and industry visionary Ralph Peer helped shape and popularize American country and roots music from the 1920s through the ’40s. On Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., a new biography of Peer will be the topic of a talk by the author, Barry Mazor, at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. A concert by musician Dom Flemons will follow at 7 p.m. We’ll have more about the program on Field Trip South tomorrow.

 

Etta Baker at home

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Beautiful portrait of Etta Baker at her home in Morganton, North Carolina by Mike Seeger. P20009_0003 in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009).

If you have not yet had the opportunity to hear Mrs. Baker’s music, we highly recommend you remedy that as quickly as possible. There are ample opportunities here at Wilson Library and we welcome you to visit for some research, but until then here is an interview with Etta Baker by David Holt (whose papers are also at the Southern Folklife Collection). And if that’s not enough, our friends at the Music Maker Relief Foundation released a few albums by this North Carolina and national treasure (including a remarkable disc with Etta Baker and Taj Mahal).

Little Jimmy Dickens, 1920-2015

Little Jimmy Dickens, portrait, 20001_pf0566_0001, John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, UNC Chapel HillLittle Jimmy Dickens in one of his trademark suits, image from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), one of many images of country, folk, and traditional musicians now available for research online. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens passed away in Nashville on January 2, 2015.

Nice boots, Tater, nice boots.

The “5” Royales inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

P20286_012_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillExcellent and exciting news this week that the “5” Royales are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the “early influences” category. Many have supported their nominations in the past, the “5” Royales were recipients of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1992, but we were glad to see the band from Winston-Salem, NC recognized internationally for their significant contributions to American music. As the repository for the J. Taylor Doggett Collection (20286), the Southern Folklife Collection holds a variety of materials documenting the “5” Royales career and music. P20286_002_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillThe “5” Royales series documents Doggett’s extensive research and collecting efforts relating to the careers of constituent members Lowman Pauling, Clarence Paul, Curtis Pauling, Obadiah Carter, Johnny Tanner, Eugene Tanner, Otto Jeffries, and William Samuels. There is also music of the Royal Sons, EL Pauling and the Royalton, and the Charlie “Little Jazz” Ferguson Orchestra. The “5” Royales were significant in providing a link between early R&B and early soul in their combination of doo wop, jump blues, and gospel styles influencing a number of R&B musicians, including Ray Charles, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner. Guitarist and songwriter, Lowman Pauling, who unfortunately died in 1973, remains one of the greatest unsung innovators in rock and roll. Over the past few years, a number of box sets chronicling the group’s career, as well as tribute albums by well known musicians like Steve Cropper and young North Carolina groups like Chapel Hill’s The Flesh Wounds have been released, exposing new audiences to the band’s unique sound.

The J. Taylor Doggett Collection includes a number of important recordings, photographs, and ephemera of the group, but a few items that I am constantly drawn to are a series of cassettes compiled by Doggett, SFC call numbers FS9139 through FS9146, that document the bands lesser heard tunes and side projects. Obscure but essential_FS9139_FS9146_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillBesides these remarkable tapes, we love the photographs of the “5” Royales at the Royal Peacock Club (see the sign pictured above and images below ). These images put the viewer almost onstage at what must have been a true rock and roll experience. Congratulations to the “5” Royales and many thanks to J. Taylor Doggett and so many others who dedicated themselves to preserving the legacy of one of North Carolina’s musical treasures. P20286_003_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillP20286_004_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_005_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_007_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_009_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_010_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill

 

SFC Humanities Advisory Meeting

photo 1On November 17th, the SFC arranged a humanities advisory group meeting as part of the Extending the Reach of Southern Audiovisual Sources grant. The group consisted of UNC library staff, university professors, and visiting digital humanities experts, including Nathan Salsburg (Curator of the Alan Lomax Archive), Allen Tullos (Professor of History at Emory University, and co-director of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship), and Sam Brylawski (Chair of the National Recording Preservation Board for the Library of Congress). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the preservation of, and access to SFC’s large holdings of analog moving image and sound materials.

photo 2The collection amounts to over 250,000 historic sound recordings on a number of at-risk formats, including wax cylinders, Digital Audio Tape (DAT), and lacquer discs. In addition, there are 3,500 video recordings on a variety of formats, and over 8 million feet of film. Over the span of the grant, the core team seeks to revamp workflows, investigate and consider new equipment and facilities, and work towards increased online streaming access in order to make more collections available to researchers, faculty, and students.

Through the coming months we will continue to assess our workflows and carry out conservation and access assessments for SFC collections, while also keeping in mind the invaluable responses and recommendations we received from this humanities advisory group. Expect more updates on our progress to be posted to Field Trip South in 2015.

It don’t matter who’s in Austin, Bob Wills is Still the King (or is it Clifton Chenier)?

20002_Archie_Green_Broken Spoke_Southern Folklife CollectionA couple of posters from gigs I would have liked to attend. I was lucky to grow up not 1/2 mile from the Broken Spoke, and despite the best efforts of “New Austin,” I am very glad to report that it’s still there, still honky-tonkin, and the Lone Star is still cold. Both of these posters come from the Archie Green Papers (20002), collected by Archie while a professor at the University of Texas in the 1970s. I feel like artist Michael Priest’s comment written on the bottom of the poster reflects the general sense of wonder those cosmic cowboys and post-hippy hipsters must have felt to be able to attend shows like this on a regular basis, singular moments in music history that transcended the commercial drive of the social scene.

“We seen it right here didn’t we?”

I wish we had, Michael. Long live the kings. 20002_Archie_Green_Antones_Southern Folklife Collection

 

A song of personal thanksgiving

FC890_Chancey_Johnny_John_002

With all of the mythology surrounding contemporary celebrations of Thanksgiving, I often turn to field recordings to guide me through the gauntlet of caricatures that can seem to overwhelm the holiday experience. I like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Parade too, but this time of year always feels surreal until I pull down my collection of Native American music recordings from the record shelf and listen as I begin to prepare dinner for my family and friends.

FC890_cover_005Looking through the stacks this morning in the Southern Folklife Collection, I found a Library of Congress collection from the Archive of Folk Song, Songs from the Iroquois Longhouse, SFC call number FC890. Compiled by William Fenton from recordings made for the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Six Nations Reserve in Canada and the Allegany reservation in New York in 1941, the record is a powerful document of music from the Eastern Woodlands of North America.

FC890_notes_004The notes are extensive and detail the singers, songs, and performance of the music in a variety of contexts. Among the Seneca performers documented is Chancey Johnny John, called hau’no’on, “Cold-voice,” of the Turtle clan of the Cayuga. According to Fenton, Chancey came from a line of singers and knew more than 1000 verses of song. To be able to hear Chancey Johnny John sing is a remarkable gift and we hope you readers and listeners enjoy this short piece as you join together in body, mind, or spirit with your families and friends this weekend. Click on the bar below to listen to Chancey Johnny John recorded in 1941. 

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The song of personal thanksgiving is an individual chant sung during the Midwinter festival, on the third day of the Green Corn Festival. According to Fenton, “every man should return thanks to the Creator that he has lived to see the ceremonies again and that so many people have once again returned to renew the faith of their ancestors.” A transcription of the chant follows. FC890_notes_personal_006FC890_recording_003

A look inside Goldband

20245_pf0544_0012_Wild Bill Pitre_Goldband Recording Corporation Collection_Southern Folklife CollectionA peek into Eddie Shuler’s Goldband complex–including recording studio, record store, and TV store–in Lake Charles, LA, from the now digitized Goldband photo albums. For more see the Goldband Recording Corportaion Collection (20245) finding aid. Above is Wild Bill Pitre of Wild Bill and the Blue Washboard Boys. Below, Eddie Shuler at the desk in his control room. And finally, Count Rockin’ Sidney below.

These images were preserved as part of the Southern Folklife Collection digitization project, From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

20245_pf0544_0011_Eddie Shuler__Goldband Recording Corporation Collection_Southern Folklife Collection 20245_pf0544_0009_Count Rockin' Sidney_Goldband Recording Corporation Collection_Southern Folklife Collection

Gravestones of North Carolina

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Excited to share some research from one of my favorite collections in The Wilson Special Collections Library on this All Hallows’ Eve, The M. Ruth Little Stokes Collection (20065). Architectural historian Margaret Ruth Little-Stokes received a Ph.D. in Art History and a minor in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1984. She served as principal investigator for the North Carolina Cemetery as Cultural Artifact Project, 1981-1982, an initiative funded by National Endowment for the Humanities and directed by Terry Zug, professor in the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Project was intended to be “the first investigation in the state of historic cemeteries and graveyards as cultural benchmarks with aesthetic characteristics and iconographical content,” and focused on photographic documentation, recording, and cataloging of cemeteries in three counties: Cumberland County, N.C.; Davidson County, N.C.; and New Hanover County, N.C. The intensive survey covered Cumberland, New Hanover, and Davidson counties completely, and Lincoln County, N.C., and Catawba County, N.C., on a selective basis. Other counties were added for comparison. Intended to link demographic and cultural traits with regional practices, one of the Project’s primary focus points was to identify gravemarker artisans and carvers throughout the region and to trace their movements within, and influences over, the carving tradition.20065_M_Ruth_Stokes_004

Included are master cards with cemetery survey information and topographical maps used in the research and identification process. Each master card contains the cemetery name; location; inclusive dates; topography; landscaping; boundaries; marker descriptions and design motifs; an overall site plan; and a brief history, if known.

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Curley Parker & the Garvin Brothers on Cozy Records

Cotton Eyed Joe, Curley Parker & the Garvin Bros.Newly cataloged at the SFC is an obscure bluegrass release on Cozy Records by Curley Parker and the Garvin Brothers, call number 78-17403.

Cozy Records was based in Davis, West Virginia and named after a restaurant in nearby Grafton. It was founded by coal miner and minister John Bava, who’d played and sung along with his wife Lucy in a band called the Country Cousins.

In addition to his record label, Bava also started a magazine called Musical Echoes (printing facilities for which sat in a converted chicken coup), and a music publishing company under his own name. It seems that Bava may have used Musical Echoes partly to promote his compositions among musicians who might perform them. For example, in the SFC’s Sheet Music and Song Lyrics collection, we found this copy of Bava’s composition “Upon the Cross of Calvary” which has a red-and-white sticker referring to Musical Echoes as “song book for the entertainer.”

SFC Sheet Music and Song Lyrics Collection #30013, folder 97

SFC Collection 30013, folder 97

The back cover has been addressed and stamped, with Musical Echoes as the return address. At the bottom, the recipient is told to “request Hank the Cowhand of WMMN, Fairmont, W. Va. to sing ‘Would You Care.’” (Hank recorded this song for Cozy as Hank Stanford & the Sagebrush Round-up some time in the early 1950s; the song was written by Bava).

BAVA-SFC004Cozy recorded local, West Virginia-based talent, as well as musicians who appeared regularly on radio but who’d had trouble making inroads with bigger labels. Besides Hank the Cowhand, Cozy artists included Cherokee Sue, Rita Flory, Rex Parker’s Merry Men, Chuck Palmer & the Cornmuffins, and eventually the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.

Curley Parker and the Garvin Brothers only made one recording for Cozy Records, “My Guiding Star” / “Cotton Eyed Joe”, released in 1950. Originally from Gilmer County, Georgia, Parker is today best known for having played fiddle with the Blue Sky Boys during the 1940s, as well as for the duo he started with Pee Wee Lambert in 1951. In addition to his musical career, Parker also worked as a land surveyor; ultimately, he phased out professional music appearances in order to focus on his “day job.”

Side A, “My Guiding Star,” features singing by Parker and Earnst Garvin in a song about the unexpected death of the narrator’s fiancé. We’ve included an excerpt here:

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Side B, “Cotton Eyed Joe,” is an instrumental, and showcases Parker’s fiddling technique (as well as that of an unnamed banjoist, presumably one of the Garvin Brothers). The virtuosity is especially apparent towards the end when the tempo verges on breakneck.

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It does not appear that the Garvin Brothers have any surviving output beyond this release.

Our copy of the Parker-Garvin Brothers release came from SFC donor Guthrie Meade and was autographed by Parker. In the image below, you can (sort of) see the inscription on the lefthand side of the label: “To Gus, Curley Parker.”

My Guiding Star, Curley Parker & the Garvin Brothers